Do you believe your schools are safe?
Following SO many tragedies, we hear those affected say over and over again, "We never thought it could happen here". Or we hear those who've been lucky enough not to have something like that happen to them say, "It won't happen in our community at one of our schools"! We call this mindset "the Psych-IL-logical Emergency Management Cycle", and it can be applied to virtually ANY emergency or disaster event (the example below is for drought and wildfire), including those that affect schools.
When it comes to thinking about how safe our schools are, is the "Psych-IL-logical Emergency Management Cycle" really what we need?
Ask Yourselves Some "Key" Questions:
The following are some questions you may want to answer before jumping in with both feet. Answers to these questions can help, especially if you decide you'd like to start your own P♦E♦A♦C♦E Challenge group.
1. What can you, a parent or member of the community, do to enhance safe schools?
2. What do you, a parent or member of the community, need to know in order to enhance safe schools?
3. What should you, a parent or member of the community, look for related to school safety at schools in your community?
4. What do children think about safety in their school.
5. How comfortable are you, a parent or member of the community, with methods and procedures for reporting safety concerns at schools in your community?
6. Is access to schools in the community controlled and monitored?
7. Do schools in the community have established policies and procedures on security and emergency preparedness?
8. Do schools in the community have "living" school safety teams, a safety plan and ongoing process, as well as a school crisis team and school emergency/crisis preparedness guidelines in place?
9. Do school and public safety officials use internal security specialists and outside public safety resources to develop safety plans and crisis guidelines?
10. Are school emergency/crisis guidelines tested and exercised?
11. Have school employees, including support personnel, received training on school security and crisis preparedness issues?
12. Do school officials use outside resources and sources in their ongoing school safety assessments?
13. Are you, as a parent or member of the community, honestly doing your part in making schools in the community as safe as they can possibly be?
First: establish a kind of "steering committee". This can consist of a few key stakeholders willing, ready, and able to devote the time and effort necessary to see this process through to implementation. Consider keeping this group pretty small to start. Later on, a design team can be established that will help facilitate the process throughout.
Please note, we did not say "completion". These kinds of programs are never complete. Let's get that straight up front. This is a process - NOT a product. A process is ongoing. It must be recognized and accepted as such right from the get go. If it isn't, it's doomed to failure right from the start.
Second: choose a steering committee chairperson. This person will have the responsibility of helping to ensure things stay on track. As stated elsewhere, and once again, here, you don't need a consultant. Repeat - you DO NOT need a consultant to do this. Consultants cost money. That's something we don't have - money. This process must be done with little to no cost monetarily as is humanly possible. For any unexpected monetary costs that may crop up, it's going to fall on everyone to seek help in the form of donations from whatever sources might be available. Plus, finding experienced consultants willing and able to do what we're proposing will more than likely be a crap shoot anyway. If you do decide you need a consultant to guide your process, you must also be willing to budget accordingly. We’ve seen some budget proposals being submitted by outside consultants ranging in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Third: get together and discuss steps that can be taken. In a former life, we called this meeting an "Internal Scoping Meeting". Some of the things that can be discussed are contained in the link that follows.
This is a very basic "baseline" of activities that can be used to help guide the process to get started. It's by no means cast in stone. Stuff can be added and/or deleted as necessary. It should be considered as nothing more than a sort of "building block" on which to start the process.
Following completion of the checklist above, an "External Scoping Meeting" can be conducted. More later on this. Let's get the internal scoping meeting out of the way first.
Later on, after preliminary activities listed above are completed, other members of the emergency management community including, but not limited to, emergency managers, law enforcement, emergency medical, volunteer organizations in the community, etc., can and should be invited to participate. They will be the necessary subject matter experts your group will need to help guide the process.
Fourth: accept that emergency planning, adequate training, and an emergency exercise program are integral components of any emergency management program, and accommodate each each accordingly. According to Colorado state law (SB 08-181 Position Paper), there are minimum planning, training, and exercise program requirements for schools to be in compliance. Requirements will vary state to state, but every state probably has minimums that must be met.
One Stop Shopping:
Of all the sites we've researched thus far, this one, by far and away (in our opinion) is the most comprehensive we've come across anywhere:
We Aren't Rocket Scientists:
Please don't think we are. None of this is rocket science. Nor is it re-inventing wheels. The information and resources to help in this process are already out there. We've gone to great lengths to provide links and information to some of them on this website. Take advantage of them. That's what they're there for. And, best of all, they're all free of charge.